Pastor, 88, Gets Degree 58 Years After Starting, Didn't Want to Meet Jesus Without It

The Rev. Horace Sheffield refused to quit.

(Photo: Shorter University/Dawn Tolbert)Shorter University President Don Dowless presents the Rev. Horace Sheffield with his degree on May 5, 2017. His daughter, Amanda Brannock, watches with emotion.

Some 58 years after the 88-year-old retired pastor started his degree in Christian Studies at Shorter University in 1961, he finally graduated from the college earlier this month with his hard earned degree in hand fueled by the desire not to meet Jesus without it.

"I saw him write until his hands couldn't write anymore, and I've seen him focus so hard to the point where his vision wasn't normal," said Sheffield's neighbor, Amanda Brannock, who helped him finish what he started so many decades ago.

Sheffield ditched his studies in 1965 because his daughters were about to start college around the same time, a Shorter University report explained.

After reading a magazine article about senior citizens attending some colleges and universities without paying tuition, Sheffield decided it was time for him to finish the degree he started.

"I didn't care about having a diploma back then, but I'm getting my degree this time," he said of his attitude when he made the decision to build on the 115 hours he had already dedicated toward the degree.

Brannock, who is an early literacy teacher at a primary school in Lamar County, explained that she helped him get his degree because he had helped her family so much.

(Photo: Shorter University)The Rev. Horace Sheffield, 88.

"I moved to Georgia five years ago, and Horace was one of the first people I met here. He came to my home to talk to my family about accepting the Lord and becoming members of the church. It's because of Horace I was able to see my husband and my son baptized," Brannock told the Rome News-Tribune.

"When he approached me about going back to college, he said it was the only thing in life he had never finished, and he did not want to meet the Lord without that degree.

"He said he knew nothing about computers let alone own one. So I said, 'Pop, I've got a computer and a printer, and I'll get you internet. Let's go for a ride.' He gave me the gift of God in my husband and son; I could do no less than help him get an education. We are so proud of him," she explained.

With the majority of his family in attendance on graduation day, Brannock walked with Sheffield as he pushed his walker across the stage according to the News.

"We went in as a team, and we wanted to come out as a team," she said. "I could not be more proud if it was my own degree."

As soon as school officials announced Sheffield's name, jubilant whistles and screams erupted from his supporters and never wavered until he finally walked off stage.

"It's a thrill of a lifetime," he said after the event. "I finally made it."